The Forest Service (FS) has released its draft for the forest plan revision on the Nez Perce and Clearwater National Forests. It will be one plan for both forests. The FS released the draft on the Friday before Christmas, effectively shortening the public comment period. Friends of the Clearwater (FOC) and allies then submitted a letter to the FS requesting a public comment period extension. The agency has since extended the public comment deadline until April 20, 2020. Read the Draft Environmental Impact Statement.
Some Initial Concerns – Draft Plan Alternatives
The FS failed to analyze and include FOC’s Citizen Conservation Biology Alternative in the draft plan. Our alternative is based on the best available science, and generated approximately 10,000 comments during the scoping period. This is a key omission by the FS in the draft plan.
The Big Wild
The Wild Clearwater Country is the northern half of the largest undeveloped watershed complex in the Lower 48. It is also part of the furthest inland temperate rainforest in the world. This special place provides crucial habitat for numerous imperiled species such as wolverines, gray wolves, grizzly bears, Canada lynx, fisher, salmon, steelhead and Bull trout.
Recommended Wilderness, Designated Wilderness and Wild Rives
The draft plan poses a severe threat to the remaining 1.5-million acres of undeveloped wildlands in the Clearwater. The FS has indicated that any roadless areas not recommended as wilderness in the new forest plan could be developed (logged). These irreplaceable roadless areas, which provide some of the best habitat in the Basin, should instead be recommended as Wilderness, including the roadless areas adjacent to the Gospel – Hump Wilderness, which were wrongfully omitted in the 2008 Idaho Roadless Rule. Weitas Creek, in particular, deserves to be recommended.
The draft plan barely addresses existing designated Wilderness, and omits any mention of improving old wilderness stewardship plans. The draft plan would also allow development in wild and scenic rivers, and most alternatives would be less protective than the existing condition.
Standards for watersheds and fish and wildlife habitat
There are no quantitative standards for protecting watersheds and fish habitat in the new draft plan. This is a huge problem, as the current plan has enforceable standards that the agency must adhere to. Riparian buffers could be developed and logged, and cobble embeddedness (sediment) could greatly increase, impairing water quality and spawning grounds. Considering the current crisis facing wild steelhead and salmon, this draft plan could further drive each species towards extinction. Standards for elk habitat could also be greatly compromised.
Standards for old-growth
The draft plan would allow logging in designated old growth, a departure from current standards that protect old growth habitat from development. This could greatly affect old-growth dependent species like the imperiled Northern Rockies fisher.
Grizzly bear recovery
In 2019, three or four grizzly bears were observed on the Clearwater and Nez Perce National Forests. The last confirmed grizzly prior to this was in the Kelly Creek drainage in 2007, which was shot and killed by a hunter. Despite the new bear sightings, grizzly bear recovery is ignored in the draft plan. Natural corridors on both forests could be fragmented with roads and increased motorized recreation, as well as the permitting of mechanized (mountain bikes) recreation. There would be little-to-no secure habitat for grizzlies outside of designated Wilderness.
Every alternative in the revised plan increases logging levels for these two forests and eliminates the forest’s potential to sequester carbon, which is sorely needed. Both forests would be largely manipulated to achieve agency “desired conditions.”
Freedom of Information Act
Our staff has been using the Freedom of Information Act to get important project files from the government on this forest-plan revision. Click here if you are interested in gaining access to any of the files that the Forest Service has considered so far. If the link has expired you can contact us and view the project file in our office.
Submit A Comment
Friends of the Clearwater has prepared an 8-page alert with further analysis of the forest plan revision. It contains information on all the undeveloped roadless wildlands in the Clearwater, as well as charts comparing the existing forest plan, with the new draft plan, and our citizen alternative.
We also have a handout of discussion points to get you started.
The public comment period ends on Monday April 20, 2020. Read the Draft Environmental Impact Statement. Comments can be sent to the Forest Service electronically through the agency’s website/comment form. They can also be sent via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please provide your name and address when submitting comments. You can also mail them to:
Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests Supervisors Office
903 3rd Street
Kamiah, ID 83536
The Forest Service forest planning web page is here.
Feel free to call our office at 208-882-9755 or send us an email if you have questions about the draft plan revision. Thank you.